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Yard Work

Hiring Pro a Good Call for Tree Removal

July 03, 1999|ASSOCIATED PRESS

When Joyce Kilmer wrote that he'd "never see a poem lovely as a tree," he didn't have in mind a tall pine raining sappy needles all over his car, raking mountains of leaves in the fall or listening to an elm creak in a high wind as it threatens to crash through the roof of his house.

Your yard may have problem trees that present hazards to property and personal safety--and would be better off removed. Should you attempt the job yourself? Felling a tree in your yard is not the same as it is in the forest. A tall tree may have to be removed in sections and felled in a precise manner to avoid crashing down on power lines, roadways or nearby homes.

Once the tree is down, you'll have to contend with cutting up the trunk and branches and disposing of the waste wood, not to mention removing the stump. Of course, you can rent the equipment that a pro would use to handle the job. However, it's likely you'll find the rental costs, specialized knowledge and hard work required make hiring an expert a real bargain.

Getting the right people for the job also takes some know-how. First, make sure the company carries liability insurance. Without this, personal injury to anyone (including those hired to do the work), or damage to nearby property, can open you up to a serious personal lawsuit. And, don't just take the company's word on insurance--ask to see a copy of its insurance certificate.

Though costs can vary depending on location, you're better off paying a flat rate for the entire job rather than paying on a time-and-materials basis. This way, you know the total cost before you start and can shop around to find the best deal.

As a rule, you can expect to pay about $500 to $600 per eight-hour day, which includes the crew and equipment. You shouldn't have to pay anything before the work starts, and it's a good idea to look for a company that's been in business for a while and has references you can check.

Where a tall tree can't easily be felled because of potential damage to property, it's removed in sections. The first step is to remove the branches, working from the bottom up to avoid getting the upper branches entangled in the lower ones. A cherry picker and a chain saw are standard tools for this work.

Alternatively, some pros use a rope and climbing saddle and cut the branches with a handsaw. Large branches are best lowered to the ground with a rope rather than letting them fall. Once the trunk is cleared, sections are cut off starting at the top.

Stump removal is best handled with a stump cutter or grinder. This powerful machine (at least 30 horsepower) has a large wheel that's fitted with carbide teeth. The cutting wheel is positioned hydraulically, and is moved back and forth over the stump until the wood is ground away to the desired depth.

If you want to plant grass over the area, the grinder should work down to about 6 to 8 inches. Increase the depth to about a foot for a paved driveway.

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